From an old website, Alien in Montreal. I'm not sure I should have re-posted this here at all, it's a bit, well, wrong-sounding in so many ways. It was a decade ago though.
I've been putting off my visit to Charlie's American Bar for some weeks now. There are a couple of reasons, neither of them good:
The first is that the bar contains the word 'American', which, I'm sorry to say, is not associated with fine beers and good nights out in interesting pub-like surroundings (in my mind anyway).
The second, is that the last time I was about to enter the place, two old Americans pushed in front of me and descended into the bar before me. And I mean old. Middle-aged, moneyed, dull-looking people.
I hesitated on the threshold, and walked away.
On this day, however, I took the plunge and went inside.
I imagine that Francophones would not feel at home here, and would, perhaps, make a run for the door within a few seconds. The bar is loud, and not with music, but with shouted American English. And I mean shouted. They were, to my ears, screaming at each other.
I take a stool, and notice that there isn't any draught beer. Still, all is not lost, as Bud is only $2.50 a bottle. So I take a Bud, with a heavy heart, and listen to the conversation.
There is a screeching, middle-aged, drunken woman on one side; an old man doing crosswords on the other; and a non-descript man close to me.
They talk about sick people (ever a theme I seem to stumble upon in Montreal pubs), and other people that they don't seem to like very much. The woman throws her hands in the air and rolls her head around dramatically whenever she speaks.
The crossword man is stuck on two clues. I ask if I can take a look. He says fine, go ahead, and I look and don't know the answers.
'The mantle of sleep is?' 7 letters. Answers on a postcard please.
The crossword man is an old hippy from the States who retired in Montreal. When the Grateful Dead start to play he gets a misty look in his eyes and says,
'Man, that makes me wanna drop some acid.'
'Indeed.' I say.
The barmaid turns out, rather surprisingly, to be from Leeds (England). When she discovers that I know all about Leeds, she switches to a perfect Leeds accent.
'This is how I talk with me mum.'
'Really?' I say.
She has a Chinese father, so also speaks Chinese (her words) fluently. Oh, and French of course.
Makes me feel bad, right away.
[I wondered for a while if I should relate all the events that took place in the bar, as to do so may implicate someone in a way that wouldn't be good. So I'll be cryptic instead.]
Stuff happened, and I was generally surprised.
Some guys with African accents, and looking out of place somehow, start to arrive and chat with the people around the bar. One of the guys vanishes into a locked room behind me for five minutes or so with the barmaid.
The Crossword guy leaves, and I move round the bar to talk to an Indian guy (India in Asia, that is). He's musical, and has a band. He also likes London.
He tells me, 'I speak American, not English. The guys in London love Americans.'
I mull over the truth of this particular statement, and decide upon,
'You're lucky to move in such nice crowds'.
He hangs with Badmarsh and Shri. He's talked to Goldie on his friend's mobile phone. He hangs with the stars.
He tells me a story about giving a record exec 'a good kicking' in a Brixton bar. We're at the point in the story where the crowd is about to step in, to break it up:
'Then all these negros, come towards me looking angry, and I shout, no, wait, it's a record executive! And they all back off. Amazing. Then the bouncers throw him out! Wicked place England. They're really good at fighting, the English.'
'Hmm.' I say.
He goes on,
'Yeah, we always hang out in fag pubs in London, it's great.'
He buys me a beer. I tell him I'll keep an eye out for his band.
Then, I think for a moment and say, 'I'm glad you like my country.' I emphasis the 'my' and he looks uncomfortable for a few seconds. Like he should thank me or something.
I drink up and leave. Bar bill, $20.
1. Address: 1204 Bishop St, Montreal, H3G 2E3
2. Telephone:(514) 871-1709
3. Map Link: <a href='http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?country=CA&state=qc&city=montreal&address=1204+Bishop+St '>View</a>
4. Nearest Metro: Peel, maybe
5. Additional: No draught beer, but cheap 'Bud'